Staying After Class

Blog AnythingThank you so much! The first blog was a resounding hit. You have truly energized me. I am now thinking about a better–or more fun–platform of writing. In fact, as I sat down to write this next blog, I began the rough draft for two others, GENEROSITY IS GREATER and MODERATES WIN, but more about that and your various responses in future blogs!

ARE YOU STILL READING THIS CR*P? ;-) I hope so, because I actually enjoy writing it.

On to the point of this blog, "Who stays after class?" Seriously–you've been in class for hours and you can go now, why would you stick around? I don't care if you are in high school, college, preschool, or in an insurance CE course, once class is adjourned, participants should have an automatic, instantaneous reaction to leave. The only exception is detention or some other punitive reason. Staying after  class is a BAD thing. One truly has to be a bit leery when one steps outside this social norm. These constructs of society exist for a reason, right?

The picture below is from a High School reunion…of sorts! It's the kind you find out about on Facebook. This type of "reunion" isn't held in a banquet center, just at a local bar. Very casual, but still, social norms exist. You get the invite and then check to see if anyone you "really" know is going. When you see that enough "real friends" plan to attend, and then, yeah, you're there too!

The person in this picture to my left is Lisa. Before the photo, I had talked to her several times on Facebook, many of my friends knew her, but as much as she tried to tell me different, I don't think we'd ever met before this evening. Granted, I could be wrong. One thing the walk down Facebook memory lane has taught me is I remember very little about high school. Please, do not think I was in some drug induced coma during those very valuable and formative years. I wasn't. In fact, from about age 15 to 22, I didn't even have so much as a beer. Being the Type A that I was, and am today, I was very focused on my future.  I had many friends and good times during the period, but fitting in with the "cool crowd" was not a priority. Even today, when I think of the work that goes into being popular amid teenagers with an emotional IQ near their shoe size, I don't regret that I had other priorities.

As you can see from the photo, Lisa kind of adopted me that night. Which was fine. I found out a lot of interesting things about her and had a really good time. Lisa most certainly isn't shy, and as a result of our little connection, I ended up meeting a lot of other very fun people that night. One of those Lisa connections was the gentleman below.

Again, I was told we know each other, but now today just like then, I had a hard time recalling his name. You might not be able to see it in the photo, the half-smile isn't the most telling, but I really didn't want to be this close. In my mind, we had just met. See my hand over his? This is not a sign of affection. This is a bit of a warning sign–grab me like this again, and you might lose a finger! ;-)

Kidding aside for a moment, those of you that know me, and even those who've attended our classes have seen it, I tend to be a bit transparent with my feelings. Call it an Italian Curse–or blessing. I feel emotions deeply and they are generally written all over my face. If that's not clear enough, there are a number of hand gestures that enter the discussion. So when others are either so engrossed in their personal agenda, or possibly socially inept enough to just not see my non-verbal communication, it becomes a tough situation. I pay a lot for my nails, so I don't like to bring out the claws!

For example, it's shortly after 9-11 and one of the men who is attending our class on Asset Allocation comes up to me during one of the breaks and asks, "Do you have a minute?" Since I don't find myself at my last breath, it seems I have a minute and I tell him by stopping the work at my computer and looking him in the eye while I say, "Of course, what can I help you with?" Isn't that what you do when someone very politely asks for a minute?

As I then hear him stammer around what he might want to say, I lose interest. I hate to admit it–I want to be better about it, but frankly, the phrase, "Sh*t or get off the pot!", comes to mind! Crude, I know, but that is the BEST colloquial expression I can think of used to imply a person should follow up their stated intentions with action. That he wanted a minute assumed he wanted to discuss something with me and instead I see this minute fading fast and chances are this will turn into two, or three, or five, and since I am limited to a ten minute break to wrap up various responsibilities before the next fifty minutes of class, I grow impatient.

As I continue to make firm eye contact while trying to appear interested, I am certain my eyes were screaming, "Please get to the point! I've got 25 emails in my inbox." Just more reading and writing, right? "Who reads all this CR*P anyway?"…while here is a live person asking for a bit of attention. It's like standing in-line at the store while the clerk takes a customer call instead. There just seems something wrong in the priority of it.

I think he saw my frustration so he gave up. I guess during this round I've handedly dismissed him, but he'll be back. In these moments I also think, "Good gravy girl, it's only a minute! Have a bit more patience. He might have something quite serious to discuss." Then I think, quite clearly, yes…quite clearly indeed,  "You are standing in front of an audience for 50 minutes encouraging 'them' to participate saying time in again in various ways, please say something, 'Questions–comments?' *PAUSE…anyone…please." What is it that he might want to say to you that none of them can hear? That is the question that scares me the most!

Agents have asked for a minute or stayed after class to discuss a number of very important things–too many to write about in this blog. Things here range from advice for a client case to an ethical dilemma at work. While some are private and it's totally understandable why they'd prefer an after-hour discussion, for the vast majority of these, I again wish they'd brought it up to the group. The other insurance professionals in the meeting are a wealth of information and there is a way to discuss it that still keeps the information confidential. There have also been a number of job offers. Although some of them I would consider, in case you are thinking about staying after class to recruit me for the latest franchise selling agreement, to save us both time, I'm not interested. There have also been numerous men who stay after to "chit-chat" about everything under the sun casually hiding their left hand thinking I don't know the wedding ring is there. While I might enjoy the discussion as I pack up, I can't help but think, "The kid you are telling me about would prefer that you were home right now, and the wife you aren't discussing would probably love it if you made dinner tonight."

This particular gentleman had something very unique to discuss. After several attempts to chat with me during the breaks, he stayed after class and finally got to the point of his investment strategy. It seems he, like many others, was concerned about how things in the future economy and decided to put his money in gold. Not so unusual until he proceeded to tell me what he was doing with it: Burying it in his yard! Yup–you read that right and like you, I was in a bit of shock and awe. As much as he might like me and as trustworthy as I am, this is pretty secure information to share with your CE instructor. Plus his repeated diligence to chat personally with me to ensure I knew this about this gold all over his yard was icing on the cake! This time I think my eyes were screaming, "I have his address on his registration form and my son wants a metal detector for Christmas!"

Of course now I just think, "What an interesting way to get your money to grow!" Plant some gold in 2002 and you'd have quite the harvest today. Just check out the return at BLOGSPOT. Apparently this guy had more going on than I gave him credit for that day and the more I truly get to know the agents that attend our classes, I'm thinking there's a lot to learn during these after class discussions. Maybe staying after isn't the nerdy thing to do–maybe it's quite cool!

Something very interesting happened at our recent ethics class in Duluth–agents wanted to skip the break and continue our ethics discussion into lunch. Yes, that is correct! The discussion was so lively and fun, the participants wanted to stay–unheard of in any CE course. For years agents attending our classes have said, "This is the BEST CE!" In fact, this happens so frequently we host a page for these agent comments: WALL OF FAME. This particular class was unique. Our discussion had rolled past our normal break time and when I, as the instructor, took note of it and suggested we adjourn for a few minutes, a gentleman in the room responded, "Let's keep going and just skip the break."

To this, both he and I looked around to the other agents in the room–NONE of which seemed to object. In fact, they were all looking around too attempting to see if this was a consensus. This seemed so groundbreaking, we created an advertisement with a twist on the double meaning of our WORKING WITH ETHICS course–we plan to "work" with the concept of ethics so you can bring it back to "work", but this class isn't work–it's FUN!

Our ethics courses have become my fan favorite topic to bring relevant and interesting discussions to you. Of course, the word "discussions" only works if the agents in the room participate. I am truly blessed so many of you become engaged in the topics we've brought forth, and through these relevant examples, I think we've all become a bit wiser in the work place. I know that I have a better ethical perspective today than I did when we first started offering these classes over eight years ago.

If you're still reading this cr*p, this is not the end of the story. Recently in Anoka, I adjourned our CURRENT ECONOMIC TRENDS class after a pretty lively discussion. I know "lively" and "econ" seem mutually exclusive, but in most of these classes, agents have been chiming in all over the map from current US monetary policy to the how the vast majority of Americans fail to budget their money, or in truth, have adopted the same over-spending budget as the US government. This was a particularly great class with fabulous insight. Then the clock chimed for dismissal and I said, "Thanks for coming!" No one moved–each agent stayed in their seats. In fact, they all looked at me like I was the nerd with the resounding look of, "This is some good stuff we've got going on. Why would we leave?" You know what? Maybe they were right. Maybe we aren't going to solve the world's problems in any of our CE classes, but if each of us becomes a bit wiser and we each apply it in our own lives, maybe the world will be a little better for it. Maybe, just maybe, there are times it actually makes good sense to stay after class.

Thanks for reading this cr*p! Because of the two new blogs I've started, GENEROSITY IS GREATER and MODERATES WIN, SOCIAL SKILLS 101 might be a bit postponed. To be perfectly honest, I am unsure where the next blog will bring me. Maybe it'll arise from some after class discussion or one of your emails so please CHIME IN. Just like I said before, a blog should NOT require this much thought…and if you've read this far, please email me your thoughts, or post them on our Facebook page. After all, I am learning so much from the agents in class, I would love to get the same insight in written form.

Because of much of your insight and other enlightening moments, the next blog became a bit different. Check it out here: TIMES ARE CHANGING.

Renee E. Bryan

Owner & Primary Instructor

Bryan Ventures, Inc.; Est. 1999

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